Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dinner with the Venetians

This weekend we were very happy to have our Venetian friends over for dinner.  My very first blog posts were about our trip to Italy. You can find my post about Venice here

I am not the most confident cook when it comes to dinner parties as I am always worried about the timing of things. When should I put the roast in? And what about the veggies? If I put things in the oven too early they will get mushy or dry, but if I wait too long I'll still be fussing in the kitchen when our guests arrive. I would much rather be having a glass of wine and catching up with everyone. 

This time I made things easier on myself by choosing an entire dinner party menu from the January issue of Real Simple magazine. The menu was easy to execute and the best part is that the article gives the reader a timeline to follow for a memorable, stress-free evening. And it worked! The food was good and I was free to chat away before sitting down to dinner.

I took some pictures of some of the dishes and then forgot to take pictures of others. Oops! So my solution was to photograph some of the dishes which are featured in the magazine. Sorry if they're blurry!

Carrots with spicy olive-lemon oil.  Steam 3 pounds of carrots for 6 to 8  minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 lemon (thinly sliced), 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives and 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper in a large skillet. Add this mixture, as well as 2 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, salt and black pepper to the carrots.

Herb-roasted pork shoulder. Very easy. Simply rub the pork with garlic, fresh rosemary and sage, 2 teaspoons of salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 3 hours and voilà!

The menu called for polenta but, instead, I prepared my tried and true roasted baby potatoes with olive oil and fresh rosemary.
Winter greens with fennel and croutons. Radicchio, Boston lettuce (I was supposed to use escarole but couldn't find any), fennel and home made croutons. Toss with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Kosher salt and pepper.

And the pièce de résistance...A vanilla cake with lemon icing baked by my daughter, Amélie. The menu from the magazine called for something else but we decided to go with this simple but delicious cake. The recipe is my great-grandmother's and a family favourite. Amélie played around a bit with it by substituting the icing's almond flavouring for fresh lemon juice and adding lemon zest to decorate. Absolutely yummy!

Our friends brought some lovely hostess presents. This stunning piece is from Murano. 
And they also brought this gorgeous bouquet of roses and hydrangeas. Fresh flowers in the middle of winter make me so happy.

It was a wonderful evening and we loved catching up with our friends from Venice. Now I'm looking forward to our next dinner party! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Surfer Girl

January is the time for resolutions. Mine this year is pretty much the same as last year's which is to keep trying to do things that scare me. I find that as I get older I am also getting braver in many ways. Last spring, I overcame a very big fear which I would like to share with you. 

I have always been fascinated by the ocean and been interested in surfing but was not brave enough to try...until last spring. That's right, at the ripe old age of 44, I took my first surfing lesson with my husband. It was so, so hard and I almost abandoned several times but I'm glad that I didn't. One of my proudest moments ever was when I caught my first wave. 

It seemed really easy on dry land. Not quite the same in the actual ocean, with big waves coming at you!

I spent way more time in the water than on the board. After my umpteenth tumble, one of the instructors took pity on me and helped push me back into the surf. And after many, many attempts...

I rode my first wave! That, my friends, is the look of pure joy.

And then, I wiped out... 


and again!

Then the sun came out and I found my stride.  

And after a few more hours, the lesson was over and we went back to the hotel, bruised and battered and exhausted, but so very happy to have been surfers, if only for one afternoon

Happy, tired surfers.